I don't pretend do have an expert's understanding of classical music (or jazz), but I totally enjoy and appreciate the genre. I've got many "classic" compositions on vinyl and digital downloads. I know what I like when it comes to the masters' recordings, but I'm willing to explore new work by contemporary composers. Keeping that in mind, I'm a fan of the NYC-based trio 8 Strings & a Whistle. Matt Goeke (cello), Ina Litera (viola) and Suzanne Gilchrest (flute) have been recording and performing together for over two decades. Their latest and fourth album ...and Nothing Remains the Same... (Ravello Records) was released in November 2021 and needs to be heard. Thankfully, it's available via all digital services. And yes, it's challenging, but so rewarding. It's a truly diverse repertoire from six different composers.
Here's the rundown on the compositions: "Loki's Lair" by Mark Winges, "Magam" by Paul Théberge, "Two Journeys" by Pamela Sklar, "And Nothing Remains the Same" by John Newell, "Eidos II" by Jorge Amado, and "Souls" by Péter Kőszeghy. Given such a diverse collection of music, I asked Mr. Goeke how the band decides on the material. And while the album's liner notes suggest that the overall theme of the material is a reflection on how "change is constant" in life, whether it's the timeline of one's life or something as mundane as going to a grocery store. We are constantly in a state of flux. That is all true, but how did the trio decide on the composers? He replied:
"To be honest, there wasn't much of a plan when we put the album together –– the works kind of found each other. What's wild is how unified the works seem, even when written by people with completely different voices. There was no programming intent –– things just worked out that way."
John Newel, composer of the title piece, had this to say:
"One thing that really struck me was how beautifully you curated the selections. Six different composers' voices, but they seem, to my ears, to fit so well together, and the sequence of works flowed so naturally."
If you've not seen them in action the video below with offer a tantalizing taste of the trio live. They had the opportunity of working with composer Jorge Amado in Havana in November 2019, before recording his stirring piece "Eidos II" for the album. It demonstrates that while the piece was challenging, the synergy between the composer and the three musicians was electric. And you can see the joy in Mr. Amado hearing his piece performed by the trio. He knows they are all communing on a sublime level.
Besides tackling challenging work, they are huge advocates for mentoring and sharing new music. They launched their first "Composer Competition" in 2017. It's held every two years and they invite composers of all ages enrolled in an accredited degree program at the time of application to submit a work composed for flute, viola and cello. The First Prize is the New York Premiere of the winning composer's work on their annual Fall concert, and a Featured Composer interview on their website.
You can see via a livestream on April 6th at 7:30 pm from St. Boniface Church.